CAIRO – 14 September 2021: On Saturday, Egypt's National Strategy for Human Rights 2021-2026, the first of its kind, was issued identifying a number of challenges that the government aims for mitigating.
Areas the Strategy is Concerned With
The strategy consists of four sections that are Civil and Political Rights; Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; Rights of Women, Children, Disabled, Youth, and Elderly; and, Awareness and Capacity-Building in the Field of Human Rights.
The first section deals with nine areas that are physical safety, personal freedom, fair trial and right of litigation, prisoner and detainee rights, freedom of expression, peaceful gathering, right of forming civil society organizations and associations, freedom of creed, and right in privacy.
The second section deals with eight areas that are healthcare, education, work, social insurance, nutrition, access to safe water supply and wastewater, proper housing, and cultural rights.
The fourth section deals with five areas that are promoting awareness pertinent to human rights, introducing human rights content in education curricula, training members of the Police Authority, training members of judicial entities, and improving the training programs delivered to workers at the administrative body.
Some of the Challenges Indicated in the Strategy
Civil and Political Rights
Revisiting the most vicious crimes that should entail capital punishment, after conducting relevant social studies and ensuring alignment with international and regional human treaties Egypt is part of.
Hiring lawyers for convicts sentenced to death and who lack the financial ability to pay lawyers to appeal the sentence.
Working on reducing individual acts of physical violence in public and private places.
Reinforcing protection from physical violence against children at care facilities and orphanages, patients at asylums and rehabs, and the elderly at retirement houses.
Boosting psychological rehabilitation programs for violence victims.
Promoting legal awareness about acts considered violent, offending, inhumane, and illegal.
Egypt already has laws criminalizing human trafficking, carrying out experiments on humans without their consent, and torture. It also has laws making it mandatory for public and private healthcare entities to provide emergency medical care. Egyptian law also makes combating terrorism a must.
Designating rules, causes, and duration of a remand.
Using advanced technology-based means to substitute remand.
Finding alternatives for remand for minors aged above 15.
Making it possible for a judge to talk to the suspect and their lawyer through the video-conference technology to know their point of view about the reasons behind the remand.
Revisiting crimes whose sole penalty is a prison sentence.
Handing defaulters prison sentences.
Lack of awareness among some citizens of their legal rights in case of arrest.
Lack of legislations granting addicts in rehabs the right to appeal verdicts issued against them.
The penal code lacks legislations regulating how a victim can sue a public servant who violated their right of personal freedom abusing their status.
The charge can be dropped against public servants, who committed such violation, after a certain duration, if they do not show up to the trial.
Speaking of existing laws, apprehension and personal inspection are only allowed in case of committing a crime or a felony whose penalty is a prison sentence that exceeds three months and when caught red-handed. If not caught red-handed, a judicial order and enough evidence become a must. When arresting a suspect, he/she must know the reasons of arrest, and has the right to seek a lawyer. Prosecutors are even banned from starting an investigation with a suspect in the absence of their lawyer.
Fair trial and right of litigation
The hike in lawsuits filed before the judiciary, which makes the duration of trials quite long.
The Criminal Procedures Law lacks a clear text admitting the right of defendants to remain silent.
The lack of a law protecting witnesses, victims, and citizens who report crimes.
Lack of awareness among the public of Article 161 of the penal code, indicating the punishment of individuals, who commit a discriminatory act that entail breaching the concepts of equal opportunity, social justice, and social peace.
Emergency Law does not include notifying defendants of the outcome of their appeals.
Also, appeals at Emergency Courts are limited to crimes, excluding felonies.
Prisoner and detainee rights
The need to expand prisons due to the rise in the number of convicts.
The need to enlarge the role of NGOs and civil society in the reintegration of convicts, who served their sentences, in society.
Freedom of expression
The lack of a legal framework regulating access to official information, data, and statistics and their circulation, in spite of that being a constitutional right.
Despite the multiple number of mainstream media outlets, they do not reflect diversity in views and opinions.
Lack of public awareness about freedom of speech and its guidelines.
That right is already guaranteed in the constitution. Nevertheless, there is lack of public awareness about the concept, and the legal rules to organize demonstrations.
Right of forming civil society organizations and associations
Better partnership between the government and civil society is needed.
Many NGOs do not absorb Egypt's Development Vision 2030, and hence, their contribution to accomplishing it is weak.
The culture of volunteer work is weak in Egypt.
The capabilities of small and medium NGOs operating in Upper Egypt, border, Bedouin, and rural areas are limited.
There is a need to reinforce the participation of workers syndicates in the articulation of social and economic policies.
Board elections are not held regularly in some syndicates.
The great majority of political parties lack financing and human resources.
The weak presence of political parties in the realm of social work.
Freedom of Creed
The prevalence of extremism among some youths.
The need to promote tolerance through a renewed religious discourse.
More effort is needed to eliminate texts that demote tolerance from school curricula.
Right in privacy
Many citizens are neither aware of the concept nor of their legal rights in case of falling victim to privacy violations.
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
Poor capabilities of healthcare facilities.
Absence of healthcare services in the poorest areas.
Lack of public awareness about healthy habits.
Weak public awareness about psychological health.
Weak awareness about environment protection.
Lack of resources necessary to effectively manage protectorates and maintain biodiversity.
Elimination of illiteracy
Elimination of dropping out of school
Improving the quality of pre-university education and tertiary education as well as technical education.
Bridging the gap between education outcomes and labor market needs.
Improving the scientific research system.
Increasing the number of schools in certain geographical areas, and creating a decent technological infrastructure.
Small number of teachers compared to number of students.
The need to increase the number of job opportunities in spite of the decline in unemployment over the past years.
Large employment rate in the informal sector.
The need to create decent jobs in terms of safety, payment, and conflict-resolution.
The need to boost the role of the private sector in creating job opportunities.
The need to reinforce vocational training, and boosting workers' awareness of their rights.
Not all eligible citizens are included in social safety networks.
Overpopulation, particularly among the poorest, puts pressure on social safety networks.
The monetary subsidies reimbursed do not cover the basic needs of beneficiaries.
The need to improve the distribution networks of subsidized bread, and other in-kind subsidies.
The need to boost local agricultural production, advanced agricultural manufacturing, and farmers' awareness of the best cultivation practices. Also, Egypt lacks the necessary water resources to expand the surface area of agricultural land in the way that matches the population size.
Constructions on agricultural land.
The insufficient production of cattle, pourtly, and fish.
The high rate of food waste.
The need for better market control, and combating monopolistic practices.
Legislations designating the quality of crops, and food products, including imported ones, are weak.
The small number of NGOs operating in the sector of food quality control, and customer protection.
Access to safe water supply and wastewater
Limited water resources.
The need to rationalize the use of water in households, and the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
The need to continue wastewater networks in certain geographical areas as their coverage nationwide is less than 70 percent.
The need to introduce modern technology in treating and desalinating water.
The relative rise in the cost of building residential units.
The need to supply residential units for low-income citizens at reasonable prices.
The scarcity of land suitable for building social housing projects in coastal governorates.
Introducing public services in social housing neighborhoods.
The big number of slums and unlicensed markets.
Violations committed by some occupants of social housing units.
The need to promulgate legislations that would regulate real estate investments, and create a balanced relationship between private developers and other parties.
Discrepancy in the availability of cultural services between governorates.
Need for more financial support to cultural centers.
Limited resources for art and cultural production.
Weak implementation of property rights legislations.
Threats facing archeological sites because of underground water, and violations.
The shrinking of patrimonial handicrafts.
Rights of Women, Children, Disabled, Youth, and Elderly
Discriminatory culture against women
Many women have not issued national IDs, and hence, cannot vote in elections or acquire other economic and social rights.
Some judicial posts have not yet been occupied by women.
The need to expand the representation of women in public institutions' boards, and the Administrative Authority.
The weak participation of women in the labor market, particularly in Upper Egypt.
High rates of illiteracy among women in remote areas, and education inequality with men.
Rise in rates of sexual harassment.
High rate of female genital mutilation (FGM)
Increase in violence against women, particularly domestic violence.
The need to develop Family Courts.
Weakness of healthcare services offered in slums, rural areas, and Upper Egypt.
Rise in numbers of homeless children.
Limited resources to offer social care to children
High rates of unemployment among the disabled.
Limited public awareness about rights of the disabled.
Limited resources to achieve the integration of the disabled in terms of access to education, work, and healthcare among others.
The need to provide the disabled with vocational training.
Most of buildings and public means of transportation are not designed for the use of the disabled.
Prosthetic devices are not regularly available.
The need to reinforce the political and social participation of youth.
Services offered to youth in border and remote governorates are limited.
Limited number of NGOs working with youth.
Need for expanding capacity-building among youth as well as reducing unemployment among them.
Need to improve fitness among youth through youth centers and cities.
Limited public awareness about the rights of the elderly.
Insufficient social, psychological, and healthcare to the elderly.
Lack of legislations that reinforce the rights of the elderly.